It was a late Sunday afternoon when I sat across from my good friend in the hallway outside a yoga class we were about to take together. We had both just celebrated our 40th birthdays within the past few months and had even done a joint party to celebrate. We had so much in common but when it came to one important aspect of our lives, there was a glaring difference: I was the mom of a then-5-year-old rambunctious boy and Delilah* was infertile.
She and I met shortly before she married one of my best friends from college, Robby. I immediately thought, Yes, another cool girl to join our gang who likes great music, has a wicked sense of humor and also shares my love for exercise! My husband and I went on many double dates with them, and I was privy to their struggles of trying to conceive. If Delilah was ever jealous of the fact that I got pregnant, she never let on.
I had an easy pregnancy up until the third trimester, when I learned I had placenta previa — where the placenta covers the cervix — and was put on full bed rest. I experienced some scary bleeding but ultimately, everything was OK. After my C-section, it was Delilah who came and stayed at our house for a few days to help out with my recovery.
So, when Delilah told me that she and Robby were at the point in their fertility journey where they were searching for a surrogate, my first instinct was to volunteer. I love them and know they will make great parents — and besides, I’d done this whole "carrying a baby" thing before.
I knew that out of all our friends, I was the one who was mentally strong enough to do something like this, probably because I had gone through a scary time and come out OK. I also knew that because of my strong commitment to diet and exercise, it would be fairly easy to bounce back — just as I did after the birth of our son. I told myself, "I can do this."
Without really thinking it through, I declared, “I might be interested!"
Delilah’s face lit up. She told me that she understood if I couldn’t but that it would be such a relief not having to pay a stranger to carry their child. It turns out that the whole ordeal of using a gestational carrier is a lot more complicated than it seems.
I was shocked when he came back with an unequivocal, “No way!”
To me it was a no-brainer that I would help my friend. I love being a mother and didn’t want her and Robby to miss out on the experience. I also had been searching for a way to help others. In the past few years, I’d been doing volunteer work here and there, but this felt like a real way to give back. I had something they needed — a nice, homey uterus — and I was happy to host their little one if given the chance.
And then I told my husband the idea.
I was shocked when he came back with an unequivocal, “No way!” How dare he tell me what I should do with my body?!
But then he explained just how scary those weeks were when he didn’t know if his wife and soon-to-be son were going to be OK. He didn’t want to go through that again. I tried telling him that we could see our doctor to assess the actual risk of a second pregnancy, but he would not be swayed.
So, with a heavy heart, I told my friends that I was out of the baby-making game and could not be the person who would help them. I felt so many emotions: guilt for having offered something I couldn’t deliver on, guilt for having a child of my own when they didn’t, guilt for not initially taking my husband’s feelings on the matter into consideration.
“It’s OK,” Delilah told me. They still had not found a viable surrogate but she said she was touched by the fact that I wanted to help.
“You were the only one who stepped up,” she said, clarifying that she hadn’t told me because she was looking for me to volunteer, but because she wanted me to be in the know. I was part of her inner circle — and thankfully, I still am.
There are lots of ways mothers can help each other and being a surrogate is just one of them. In the meantime, I’ll be there for my friends and hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll be helping to throw them the most joyous baby shower ever. But, for now, the focus has to be on my family and my husband was right: When it came to our family, it wasn't worth the risk.
*Names have been changed.